30 April 2015 - The Philippine Consulate New York together with Gawad Kalinga (GK) Northeast USA hosted on April 22 the New York leg of the GK Social Business Conference in the United States entitled “Philippine Rising: the Gateway to Emerging Asian Markets for Inclusive Growth.” A three-part program was organized by the Consulate starting with a pre-event with 2nd-Generation Filipino-Americans, the book launch of “Genius of the Poor,” and film screening of the “Social Artist”.
During his welcome remarks, Philippine Consul General Mario Lopez de Leon, Jr. expressed appreciation to the GK delegation for including New York in the eight major US cities of the Social Entrepreneurship Roadshow from April 17 to May 04. GK has been the partner of the Build A Shelter Project (BASP), a community-based and Consulate General - led initiative, aimed at building 104 houses in four villages in Eastern Samar and Leyte in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. He also introduced two of the BASP convenors in the community, namely Atty. Ferdinand Suba and Zultan Bermudez.
The event started with a pre-event meeting between GK Founder Tony Meloto and 2nd generation Filipino-Americans, which became an opportunity for an exchange of insights and ideas on new and emerging windows to social entrepreneurship. In attendance were four New York delegates from the Filipino American Youth Leadership Program - Rachelle Ocampo, Edward Santos, Steven Raga and Michael Vea; Pilipino American Unity for Progress (UNiPro) President Iris Zalun; and Gel de Guzman from Ramapo College who is scheduled to visit the Enchanted Farm this summer. On GK’s side were Fabien Courteille, a social entrepreneur and owner of Plush and Play; “Genius of the Poor” author Thomas Graham; GK Executive Director Luis Oquinena; and two other young social entrepreneurs, Frank Chiu and Marie Cavosora.
During the discussion, Mr. Meloto emphasized the importance of building an economic platform for the sustainability of poor communities. He underscored the innovation taking place at Gawad Kalinga’s Enchanted Farm in Bulacan which he described as a unique platform in raising 500,000 social entrepreneurs through a bottoms-up approach. He also underlined that creating a hybrid philantrophy and profit sustainability will help the poor rise up from poverty and eventually increase their viability in the marketplace. A vibrant exchange of ideas and questions ensued among the 2nd-generation participants focusing on how the recent technology and innovation could accelerate social investments and empower social entrepreneurs as envisioned by GK.
At the book launch, Thomas Graham, a social entrepreneur and British journalist, shared his transformative experiences with Gawad Kalinga communities in the Philippines when he was writing the book. The book, “The Genius of the Poor” recounts closet heroes who are waiting for an opportunity to sustain themselves and help build the country. It also narrates the living examples of social entrepreneurs who create jobs by partnering with the poor thereby helping address poverty. The book has already been translated into French, and will be published in several other countries within a year, said Thomas.
GK Executive Director Luis Oquinena conveyed GK’s appreciation to the Filipinos abroad for caring for our suffering kababayan’s back home. He recognized their role, whether philanthropy or social enterprise, in GK’s work in reaching out to the poor living in disaster-stricken and even conflict-prone areas in the Philippines. He emphasized that the gathering in New York will strengthen the hope, power and resilience of the most needy back home knowing that they are being cared for. He particularly mentioned the first 22 houses of the Build A Shelter Project as among the first of the GK houses built after Typhoon Haiyan hit Eastern Samar and Leyte.
Mr. Manny Osmena of Cebu, owner of Movenpick Hotel Mactan Island Ceby and Ibiza Beach Club Cebu and founder of Manny O wines, also spoke about his experience with GK. He is a big supporter of GK’s projects for the poor and provided funds for 100 houses in Typhoon Haiyan-ravaged towns like Hernani in Eastern Samar and Bantayan Island in Cebu.
Following the remarks was the film screening of “Social Artists”, written and directed by Sheila Yusay, a photographer by profession from Bacolod but have lived in New York for 19 years. The film, which was her first, portrays labor of love and restoring hope and dignity among impoverished Filipino communities as demonstrated by GK and personified by its founder, Tony Meloto.
The event was attended by more than 80 guests from the Filipino and mainstream communities in New York and nearby cities. END